“O cup of coffee, black and foul, thou bitter bean who swallows sleep and leaves me wild-eyed as an owl.” – ODE TO COFFEE (Steve Vernon)
There used to be a little coffee shop on Blowers Street that was known for its owner who was a great supporter of the local arts. Once a week he would hold a Poetry Night where local unsung underground poets would come and read their latest work.
The coffee shop was called THE GREEN BEAN and has been closed for an awful lot of years – although I have heard that there is a GREEN BEAN coffee shop in Dartmouth.
I do not believe there is any true link between the two shops.
The Blowers Street GREEN BEAN was a bit of a dive but it was ALWAYS a great place to hang out and I really enjoyed their breakfasts – which were all-organic, a big thing back then.
There were about a dozen or so poets who would show up nearly every week and we would stand and shout out our poetry – mostly to the same old audience, meaning mostly to each other. My wife and I used to love going down there and reading our poems and just enjoying the atmosphere and the weird word-nerd camaraderie.
I always made it a point to order a cup of coffee – just because I knew that the owner wasn’t making much money in general – particularly during these poetry evenings.
So I was tickled by this article that I read this morning concerning WORLD COFFEE DAY.
World Poetry Day is on 21 March, and was declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1999. The purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world and, as the UNESCO session declaring the day says, to “give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements”.
WORLD POETRY DAY was generally celebrated in October, sometimes on the 5th, but in the latter part of the 20th Century the world community celebrated it on 15 October, the birthday of Virgil, the Roman epic poet and poet laureate under Augustus. The tradition to keep an October date for national or international poetry day celebrations still holds in many countries. It is still 5 October in the UK. Alternatively, a different October or even November date is celebrated. – From Wikipedia
Today is World Coffee Day and the Julius Meinl chain of coffee shops have been honoring this day since 1982 by giving a free cup of coffee in exchange for an originally written poem.
This coffee shop poetry-for-coffee event is going on mostly in Europe. I checked the map and the only cafe in the entire continent of North America is a coffee shop in Chicago – which is too bad because I would LOVE to walk into our local Starbucks and shout out a poem and claim my free coffee today!
Well, even if you cannot take part in this event you can still blog about it or Tweet about it over on Twitter, using the hash tag #PayWithaPoem.
So – to celebrate WORLD POETRY DAY allow me to share with you a short poem that I wrote an awful lot of years ago. It was published in the June 2002 issue of CANADIAN WRITER’S JOURNAL as well as in the pages of Nancy Purnell’s LUNATIC CHAMELEON.
Let My Words Take Wing
By Steve Vernon
Writers have to sell to live –
this is truth, or so I’m told
but the moment you believe this lie
is the moment you begin to die
Take a look at sparrows
squatting on hydrowires
like so many feathered clothespins
indifferent to the megavolts
of stolen river current
winding through their brittle feet
independence of existence
indifference to power
and if you’re lucky, wings.
Yeah, that was the thing about poetry. Back then, selling a poem was basically a cup of coffee proposition. You get paid two dollars or five dollars and you were a huge success. I had a couple of fifty and seventy five dollar poem sales – and one poem that was actually picked up for the princely sum of five hundred dollars – but truthfully, poetry was NOT a financially feasible form of art for me.
Which is why I don’t write much poetry these days.
So – how many of you folks out there have shouted out poetry in a coffee shop?
How many of you Haligonians remember the Green Bean on Blowers Street?
How many of you fellows have successfully got away with wearing a black beret?
yours in storytelling,